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Thursday, February 03, 2005

 

Objectivity, schmobjectivity

I only saw part of the State of the Union - I was at improv last night. I'll watch it in the next couple of days. In the meantime, I wanted to pass along a link to an article, "Mr. President, will you answer the question?," published at Salon. com back in December. A description of the article from the site:

"Bush has a special talent for avoiding tough questions and reporters who ask them. Here's what the White House press corps should do to smoke him out."

I can't count the number of times I've been OUTRAGED by how the press has avoided the tough questions. As the bumper sticker says, "When Clinton lied, no one died" -- why aren't reporters more doggedly following up with the president about some crucial and unanswered questions from the first administration? --such as, as this article suggests, "Who was responsible for the faulty intelligence about Iraq's WMD, and why haven't they been held accountable?" The part of the speech I heard last night made me itch -- to state what should be painfully obvious, we didn't go to Iraq to spread freedom, we went to get rid of weapons.

The press needs to be vigilant about making this point in its coverage of Bush's second term, rather than just blandly reporting that freedom is on the march. Journalists are so scared of being accused of bias (unless they work for Fox News or other ideological media outlets) that all too often they resort to an accounting of events that a robot could muster...."he said this, she said that." It's cowardly. I think part of the problem is the obsession with achieving the impossible goal of objectivity. Reporters are people, and people have opinions. The editors of Slate.com capture my feelings on this topic to a T in explaining why they disclosed who their editorial staff planned to vote for in election '04:

"Rather than bury our views, we cultivate and exhibit them. A basic premise of our kind of journalism is that we can openly express what we think and still be fair. Fairness, in the kind of journalism Slate practices, does not mean equal time for both sides. It does not mean withholding judgment past a reasonable point. It means having basic intellectual honesty. When you advance a hypothesis, you must test it against reality. When you make a political argument, you must take seriously the significant arguments on the other side...By disclosing our opinions about who should be president, we're giving readers a chance to judge how well we are living up to these ideals." (read the full article)
The article goes on to propose that "Repressed politics, like repressed sexuality, tends to find an outlet of one kind or another." They suggest that if the editorial team at 60 Minutes had been allowed to disclose their feelings about the president, they may not have rushed the story about Bush's service in the National Guard. I think this hypothesis holds water.


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